(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: This is a film, sometimes touching and often entertaining, telling the story of one horrendous 1956 film shoot, made so by the constant crises and insecurity of the actress who was the film's main draw, one Marilyn Monroe. Along the way we get the six-pence peek at the chaos and the battling egos of the British film industry in the 1950s, which was nearly as bad as the America's Hollywood. The cast is amazing and the situations often funny and often touching, but the film could have used some sort of revelation about its title character. I came away with an unaltered impression of the pneumatic actress whose presence was more distraction than addition to a film. Simon Curtis directs. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

There seems to be a cult that has been built around Marilyn Monroe, not entirely after her death. The claim is that in addition to her beauty, which many people found startling, she was really very intelligent and a very fine actress. Full disclosure: I always thought that she was as bright as she was beautiful and neither was she much of. But she did seem to spellbind people other than me. This film is based on the memoirs of Colin Clark who was a third assistant director on the film THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL, which brought together two actors who could not have been more different and more mismatched. One was Marilyn Monroe and the other was Laurence Olivier, who did double duty also directing the film while Monroe did half duty requiring dozens of takes after repeatedly flubbing her lines. During the production Monroe flirted with and befriended third assistant director Colin Clark, who later became a writer and documentarian and wrote about his experiences during the film shoot.

Colin Clark (played by Eddie Redmayne) had an unhappy family life at home. His parents treated his interest in the film industry as a passing immature fancy. Nonetheless Clark leaves home to join what was to prove to be a very crazy industry fraught with battling egos. Through persistence he gets the job of third assistant director on THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL, directed by and starring Laurence Olivier (played by Kenneth Branagh) and also starring the enormously popular and unprepared Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams). Monroe was just a short time into her marriage to Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott). It is a difficult decision to who makes a worse match with Monroe, Miller or Olivier. Also mismatched to Monroe are her adoring fans even in England. Monroe has only to walk down a public street to attract a crowd that soon gets unruly. The major problem is that Monroe seems constitutionally unable to remember her lines or even to act. It seems by mutual consent the world has decided to ignore her shortcomings and praise her to her face. Monroe looks for a sincere friend and finds the flunky Colin Clark. She decides that this will be her friend and confidant. What happens the real Clark revealed in his diaries, which later were the bases of the book THE PRINCE, THE SHOWGIRL AND ME and MY WEEK WITH MARILYN. Those books adapted into the screenplay of this film by Adrian Hodges.

Kenneth Branagh does not resemble Laurence Olivier, but he has obviously studied the Olivier's autocratic mannerisms. Whenever Branagh speaks it is easy to picture Olivier giving the same speech in the same way. On the other hand, Michelle Williams looks a lot like Monroe from the neck down, but she has a different sort of face. She looks more intelligent than Monroe did. I rarely could envision Monroe speaking the same lines in the same way.

This is the kind of British film that seems to have every British character actor who comes to mind in one supporting role or another. Included in the cast are Emma Watson (surprisingly mousy when not in a Harry Potter film), Michael Kitchen (of "Foyle's War"), Toby Jones (always an asset), Jim Carter, Dougray Scott, Dame Judi Dench (much like a reprise of her Mrs. Henderson persona), Derek Jacobi, David Rintoul, and several more character actors that I know by sight if not by name.

Somehow this film kept reminding me of Richard Benjamin's MY FAVORITE YEAR (1982). You again have the newcomer to show business, not yet sure what it is all about, finding out what it is really like and then given the flunky job of looking after a great star who proves to be heavily into intoxicants and totally unmanageable, but at heart calling for help. That was the better of the two films, but still this one gets a respectable low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2011 Mark R. Leeper